Published on 9 - May - 2012
April showers hit big-ticket purchases but helped smaller homewaresRetail sales value were down 3.3% like-for-like for April 2012 compared with April 2011 according to the British Retail Consortium, with the poor weather hitting outdoor products particularly hard
Rainy weather discouraged high street sales, said the BRC
It was a harsh comparison with this time last year, when sales during the month were up 5.2% lfl, boosted by warm weather and a later Easter. The BRC pointed out that while "some smaller homewares" sales were helped by the record April rainfall, big-ticket purchases continued to suffer from continued consumer caution and were mainly promotion-led.
Online sales of non-food items showed slower growth, up 9% on a year ago, the weakest since November 2011. The BRC pointed out that last year's April was a particularly strong month, with all four Easter days, fine weather, the Royal Wedding and exceptionally strong online sales.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "It would have been difficult for this April to out-perform April 2011 even with favourable weather, but these numbers are still disappointing. The long Easter weekend was a peak time for many retailers but its position earlier in the month shifted some Easter shopping into March.
"April last year was boosted by the Royal Wedding and the accompanying extra day-off for people to shop or celebrate. Retailers are keeping everything crossed that a 2012 feel-good factor from this summer's events kicks in soon.
"Consumers, struggling to balance their household budgets, remain reluctant to spend unless they really have to and the weakening economy is likely to mean people are even more cautious about their finances. With any significant improvement in the difficult underlying conditions a long way off, a lift in the public mood would at least give retailers a short-term boost."
KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson said: "April sales were always going to struggle against the very strong sales figures seen in April 2011, which benefited from the late Easter and glorious weather. Anything other than chilly winds and showers seems a distant memory for consumers and this sums up the mood of many retailers. The food sector had a tough month in comparison with recent trends but still outperformed non-food. The clothing sector was the hardest hit.
"Taking April and March together, like-for-like sales are in negative territory and any growth in total sales is coming from inflation. The sector is undergoing structural change as our desire to consume ever increasing volumes of goods diminishes and technological advances continue to change the way we shop. While May will certainly be brighter than April, the health of the retail sector continues on a downward trajectory."
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